For Reel

Hidden Figures (2016)
April 23, 2017, 3:12 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Theodore Melfi
2.5 Stars
Hidden Figures.jpgHidden Figures‘ one great attribute is that it doesn’t make an explicit villain out of any of its generally unpleasant characters. That is, whatever one can read into Paul Stafford’s (Jim Parsons) face, little of what he says is outwardly hostile, and his problems with Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) might just as well be attributed to misogyny or his feeling threatened regarding his challenged work performance. But in depicting these characters as not raving, hate-spewing racists, Hidden Figures makes it clear that racism isn’t a problem limited to a few unstable people, but rather a systemic issue that manifests in many different ways. For this reason, the sense of oppression in the workplace is palpable in every moment because of what isn’t explicitly said. Director Theodore Melfi brings only the visual sophistication of a sitcom, but in the production design and costuming the film’s world comes alive—when Johnson unloads her stresses at the office, the identically dressed white faces look on with vacant expressions, bringing attention to Johnson’s otherness and the incredible vulnerability that comes with it. Unfortunately, the moment rings false, partly due to its mistiming in the narrative, and partly due to the fact that Melfi treats each of Johnson’s humiliating trips to the bathroom as a gag about bodily functions. The film, however, despite its failings as a drama, does well in its establishing of a white world and therefore developing just how radical these incredible women were.

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